Kelly King, the Service Learning Director, for St. Vincent College, first traveled to Guatemala City in 2004 on a “Come and See” experience and has returned with student groups twice more to witness International Samaritan’s growth. Kelly can still recall her first impressions.
“I saw a community in extreme poverty. Housing comprised of a tin roof and dirt floors. There were little to no utilities and appliances were scarce. The surrounding neighborhood was a ‘squatters haven’ rather than homes.”
Convinced of the need and willing to help, Kelly returned to St. Vincent’s and began recruiting.
In 2009, Kelly returned with students from St. Vincent College. Since her last visit in 2004, big improvements had been made in an effort to begin rebuilding community ties and resources. A community leader was appointed to notify International Samaritan of families in the most need. Living conditions also improved with homes built with cement blocks, access to utilities, and more importantly, a community that began supporting its children’s education. More families had begun to recognize the importance of their child’s education and, as Kelly said, they “seemed to feel like their lives were more stable.”
Kelly returned this past spring to find even more improvements. There were street lights, cement floors, and appliances. Families were talking about the value of higher education whereas before they were quiet. “Homeowners have a vision that was not there ten years ago,” said Kelly. The community is building a future.
Guatemala City’s government leaders work with International Samaritan to rebuild a community that fosters education and provides for families. Higher attendance at schools is creating more opportunities for the community and the children themselves. A feeling of hope is back in the hearts of families.
After three visits, Kelly knows there is more work to be done, and plans to continue recruiting volunteers. If you are a campus minister, volunteer, or service director and are interested in participating in a “Come and See” experience, like Kelly King, please contact Andrew Pawuk, International Program Director.